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Personhood and People 

Last week' Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case overturned 100 years of law, and basically conferred upon corporations and other fictitious entities the unlimited right to participate in electioneering and the financing of political campaigns. It extended to these imaginary bodies yet another right of United States citizenship. Where corporations once sponsored radio programs or NASCAR drivers, so may they now sponsor candidates for higher office.

In some ways, this is the moment that Eureka resident David Cobb was waiting for. On the day that the decision was announced, Cobb and some colleagues and coalition partners launched a Web site that had been in the works -- Move To Amend (movetoamend.org). The premise of the site, and the coalition it represents, is to rally public opinion behind a constitutional amendment that would severely restrict or eliminate the concept of "corporate personhood" -- the legal theory that gives incorporated entities legal rights equivalent to those enjoyed by flesh-and-blood human beings. The site was an instant hit. It was the number one story on Reddit for much of the weekend, and had attracted thousands of signatories in its first few days.

Where you stand on this movement, or this organization, may have something to do with where you stand on Cobb. Since moving to Humboldt County, he has won the Green Party nomination for the presidency (in 2004), co-helmed a left-leaning political group (Democracy Unlimited) and become the host of a couple of radio talk shows (on KHSU and KMUD). A native Texan, he is also a world-class talker and speech-giver, and his silver tongue makes some people jumpy. So is his new venture: a) The beginnings of a national uprising that will follow on the heels of the suffragists and the civil rights movement to secure Constitutional protection for all people (and only people); or b) sort of a full-employment act for David Cobb? You tell me.

The skeptics will rightly note that amending the Constitution is not a simple undertaking. It requires, as a first step, a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress, or else a yes vote in 34 of the nation's 50 state legislatures. And in an interview this week, Cobb admitted that his movement, at this point, has no on-the-ground War Room with detailed plans on how to make one of those two near-impossible things happen.

According to Cobb, though, that isn't the point -- not at this stage. "If the North Coast Journal expects us to amend the Constitution in a week, then it's not going to happen," he said when the matter was put to him. The more important thing, at this moment in history, is to bring the conversation to a cynical world.

He said that Democracy Unlimited will be handing out questionnaires in upcoming local elections, asking candidates for local office where they stand on the issue of corporate personhood. Such candidates have little to zero say or influence on the issue -- and would prefer to talk about other things, no doubt -- but it's all a part of building a movement around what Cobb sees as the most fundamentally broken aspect of our government. And with this radical Supreme Court ruling, more and more people are going to see it as he does. Candidates for assessor and clerk and coroner across the land can send their thanks to the High Court.

Cobb wished to reassure everyone that the eyes are, in fact, on the prize. "This is a process of building a movement," Cobb said. "There will be laws enacted. There will be victories won. There will be battles lost. At the end of the day, we will amend the Constitution to show that only human beings have human rights, and inalienable rights."

^^^^^^

Haiti still needs all the help it can get. As we go to press, CNN has published the best-guess figures as of Tuesday: 150,000 people killed, 194,000 injured, 300,000 hungry children, 1 million people displaced. An unimaginable tragedy continues to unfold down there, among our cousins in revolution.

Maybe you've already given to Red Cross, maybe not. Regardless, it's time to dig deeper to help sponsor a worthy mission from earthquake country to earthquake victims. Eureka surgeons Asa Stockton and Nathan Shishido are leading a medical team that is just about ready to depart for Port-au-Prince. They'll be working out of a 70-bed hospital that, according to recent news reports, is attempting to care for as many as 1,000 patients.

They need your donations. For more info, visit humboldthelpshaiti.com. And if you find yourself in Downtown Arcata over the next few days, Arcata Exchange is helping collect money for their cause. Five bucks buys a course of antibiotics, $100 enough gear to perform a surgery.

Stockton and Shishido will be joining other Humboldt organizations doing life-saving work in Haiti. As always, the Arcata firm World Shelters is playing a big role in the disaster relief effort, and the nonprofit media development NGO Internews is helping with emergency communications efforts. They're both taking donations, too -- visit worldshelters.org and internews.org.

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Hank Sims

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